Home Depot Still Has A Spark Of Customer Centricity

I’m in the process of publishing a report called “The Customer Experience Journey” which describes 5 levels of maturity as companies head towards Experience-Based Differentiation. As companies evolve past the first couple of stages, they need to develop “Customer-Centric DNA,” which I’ve defined as:

A strong, shared set of beliefs that guides how customers are treated  

So I’m always looking for tangible examples of this type of culture. Well, I found an example in a comment to one of my posts called Can Frank Blake Revive Home Depot? I know that people don’t always read the comments, so I decided to post an excerpt of it here:

I’ve been an Employee for 8years and yes the Nardelli era was hard, not only for the customers but also the employees who’s heart pumps orange blood. I stuck it out with the company because I know the creation of this company wasnt built on the values Bob Nardelli tried to push on all of us…. Now that we have Frank, I can feel the flame spark again… it may never be a strong flame like it once was but I still have faith that it will one day light again. For all of you frustrated customers I would like to tell you that I am personally sorry, even I lost the customer service focus that bernie and arthur built this company around… but I can honestly say I got it back, and I want to rub it off on every employee I come in contact with…. Frank understands that in order to do this we have to teach train and develop each other so that we can better serve you… it will take some time to build that back, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The bottom line: If most of Home Depot’s employees still feel this way, then I’m betting on the company!

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

2 thoughts on “Home Depot Still Has A Spark Of Customer Centricity”

  1. The admission that the Nardelli years did much to harm Home Depot’s legendary customer service ethic is heartening to hear…especially from a long term employee.

    I have two perspectives that also tell much about the Nardelli years. My wife went to work for Home Depot about the time Nardelli’s reign began. She had heard from friends about what a great company it was to work for (pre-Nardelli) and knew our personal experiences as homeowners/remodelers in years preceding.

    \Over 7 years of frustrating employment she saw the attitude towards customer support degrade by virtue of altered management operations and processes, degradation of employee respect and support, and loss of respect for the company’s customers. She now works for a government agency that supports people effectively…the main reason she thought employment at Home Depot could work for her – she could give the type of customer service we had become accustomed to in the ‘Bernie and Arthur’ days. To this day she boycotts Home Depot and insists any purchases be made at alternative stores.

    My second perspective came as a customer experience consultant working on a contract for Home Depot and trying to help them align processes and operations to improve customer self-service support on the store floors. This involved a technology solution but try as I might the critical and foundational understanding of the customers’ wants, needs and expectations seemed to be rocket science to the managers we worked with.

    The simplest premise of putting yourself in your customers’ shoes – and thinking about how your job contributes to or degrades each resulting customer experience – is lost in the majority of today’s large businesses and certainly was impossible to find at the time I was performing this work for Home Depot. To qualify the timing of this work it was during the Nardelli years.

    So, those are two perspectives reflecting on your Home Depot employee’s comments. I sincerely hope for Home Depot customers that the company can ‘undo’ much of the damage done in the recent few years. The bottom line during Nardelli’s reign was owned by the shareholders. The bottom line during the founders era was owned by the customers…which turned it into the large business it became…which interested the investors…which drove Nardelli…which effectively ruined one of the highest values the company owned – knowledgeable, courteous, helpful store associates that could help customers figure out how best to solve their needs.

  2. Bruce, a couple of good example of culture that may help you is Pret-a-manger, a fast food outlet. After an initial interview at HQ any perspective candidate goes and works in a Pret store. It is then the people in the store who vote on whether the person should get the job or not. Thus perpetuating the culture. Also I would suggest First Direct, a telephone and on line bank in the UK. First Direct get 30% of their new customers through referrals. They very much focus on the cultural side and understand the impact on the Customer Experience. The other organization I think do a great job is the Mandarin Oriental Hotels. A very Customer focussed Culture.

    Colin Shaw
    Author & Founder Beyond Philosophy

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